Now, it became clear to me that when I mentioned I would be riding the bus, others did not exactly think I was fortunate. But I was really kind of excited about it. That doesn't make me weird, does it?
I have only taken a bus once in my life and did not even get to finish going to my destination. To prove I could really do it on my own, if needed. I mean its not like I am the most 'street wise' person, but I'm not naive either. So there I was taking a bus from the airport in Orlando, FL to Sanford, FL. I had never been to FL before much less Sanford and I now that I think about it, I’m not sure I had an address with me (I must of though, right?). I did have a cell phone and money however. Well, it turns out my mom had went to the airport to pick me up (not that she called, remember I had a cell phone) but did get a hold of me on the bus and drove to one of the bus stops along the way to pick me up. So much for my independence.
But, back to my story. I was able to drop off the van at the garage and walk to the bus stop. Pat gave me all sorts of good advice, don’t talk to strangers, keep your purse in front of you, and don’t sit your drink down. Clearly he has ridden on many different buses, but we won't go there.
I’m not alone though, Sondra is going with me. She takes the bus twice a week, not at 8:00 in the morning though, but she at least knows the driver and the fees and the fact that they don’t give change. This is a good to know.
The bus arrives right on time, 8:05 and it’s packed, no seats left except for completely in the back, so in we squeeze. The man on my right is busily writing words on a napkin on top of his Spiderman lunch box. He is older, probably 50ish, with thick glasses and a hook for a hand. No, I'm not kidding.
Pat’s words are running through my head…don’t talk to strangers.... don’t talk to strangers…. don’t talk to strangers……
Hi, I say waiting for him to respond. He looks at me and sheepishly says hi and goes back to what he is doing. He is concentrating very hard.
As the bus starts to go, he then tells me all he has written. I tell him what a great job he is doing and he puts his head on my shoulder and says ‘I like you’. (Pat’s words are running through my head…don’t talk to strangers.)
But I think ‘what a sweet man’. Sondra looks at me and starts laughing, thinking I have gotten quite the admirer. So I tell him thank you and it’s then that I realize he has Down Syndrome.
I try to hold my tears back but my eyes are filling up. I pray a silent prayer, ‘Lord, give me strength not to break down here, in front of Sondra and strangers’.
So I quickly begin to talk and make a few jokes and again the man next to me looks at me so sweetly, his smile goes all the way across his face and he says, ‘Your very nice’ and lays his head on my shoulder and leaves it there for a minute.
Well, that does it, the tears spill over and Sondra looks at me, so I quietly say, I think he has Down Syndrome, she looks and her eyes well up, and she starts to laugh, saying ‘thanks a lot Sheila, I have make up on you know.’ I spent the rest of the time making small talk with him and a few of his friends.
Who knew?? Who knew, but God, that I would get on a bus with men and women on their way to work at Opportunities Unlimited. Who knew, but God, the only seat available would be next to a sweet man who held all the same characteristics of my sweet nephew Davon. Who knew, but God, that this sweet reminder was what I needed.
It only took about 15 minutes to get there and I so did not want it to end. But there we were, what could I do, I couldn’t exactly hug him, so I rummage in my bag and pull out some stickers to give him. He is so happy with them. He says goodbye and I wonder if I’ll ever ride the bus again.
Well, yesterday I needed to be to work early and the only way was to ride the bus. I wonder if my friend will be there. This time I am riding solo, but I’m not scared. I get on the bus and there he is, waving and smiling at me, and there’s an empty spot right next to him. This time I notice that he is copying the words from the bus stop, so I don’t say much until the bus starts going. He quickly lays his head on my shoulder (as if to say he remembers me) and continues to smile. I ask him about work and he tells me he likes to go to work and to work with his friends.
Not too sure what he believes or if he knows a special day is coming up; I ask him if he is going to go to church on Easter ‘oh, yes’ he says. His friend behind us yells out ‘Church, I’m not going to church and waves his hand in the air’. (This makes me laugh a little) While my new friend shakes his head and says ‘I’m going to church, I like going to church’. Oh, Lord, please let me not have started a fight. But, it is quickly forgotten and we talk about the nice weather and taking walks.
I sit on the bus looking around at the men and women, some happy and carefree, others grumpy and disagreeable. Each one of them have a story. Each one was created for a reason. Not to be forgotten, lost, or looked down upon. But to be loved, encouraged and befriended; the same as me. I’m very glad that I was able to take the bus to work and so thankful that God chose to bless me with a new friend. My friend’s name is Bruce.
In God's Love, sheila